Ab exercises that work without hurting your back

What's the best exercise for my stomach that won't hurt my back?
— Chris Durianski, Park Ridge, Ill.

No one exercise fits all, so you'll want to try a few to see what works best, says exercise physiologist Jason Fox.

A good place to start is a basic crunch. Lay flat on your back and, hands behind your head or across your chest, lift your upper body off the ground, hold for a second or two and relax.

"You don't come up all the way and that's what makes it different from a sit-up," says Fox of the highly rated Grant Health and Fitness Center in Columbus, Ohio. Just go slow — speed increases the risk of injury.

If you feel pain in your lower back or neck when you're doing floor crunches, try them on a stability ball. The ball conforms to the back's shape, providing more support, but it takes balance and practice. Some gyms also have an ab bench or ab crunch equipment with handles and back support.

All the up-and-down motion tweaking your back? Try the plank position, basically a static push-up position on your forearms. With feet shoulder width apart, tighten your abs and hold for 10 to 15 seconds, doing one or two reps. Gradually work up to two- or three-minute-long reps. Fox says to keep your back straight and be careful not to overdo it.

As with any exercise, a little soreness is OK. "If it's painful, that's when you want to move on," Fox says. If you're still worried you might hurt your back, hire a fitness trainer to check your form.


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Comments

Crunches on a Fit-Ball/Balance Ball are effective and do not hurt or hurt you. Another option is to: Lie on your back with your legs out straight and your arms above your head resting on the mat/carpet. Using a Fit Ball/Balance Ball that is between your ankles, lift it with your legs until it is above your torso and pointing to the ceiling then raise your arms to receive said ball. Bring ball down to the floor with your hands and touch down for just a second as you do this you are simultaneously lowering your legs to the mat/carpet. Now lift ball up to face ceiling and grasp it between your feet with your raised legs and complete this cycle for 20 reps to equal a 'set'. Do three sets. This protects your back, provides some nice stretches and tones your abs nicely. It's tougher than it looks to the observer.

A few diagrams or pics would have been nice.

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